Welcome, everyone. It's been many months since we've been in open session. We're in a public session today, and it's really nice to be back in the public eye.
There are two things on the agenda today. One is the supplementary (A)s, and the other one, obviously, is our report. Hopefully, we're not going to have any more votes called right now, and given the host of guests we have in front of us, I thought we would show respect and do the supplementary (A)s first. Then we'll go back to the report, for which we will go into closed session.
I'd like to introduce our witnesses.
In front of us today from the Department of the Environment, we have Nancy Hamzawi, director general, environmental protection branch. Welcome.
We have Matt Jones, director general, strategic policy branch. Welcome, Matt.
We also have Sue Milburn-Hopwood, who has been in front of us before. Welcome back, Sue. You're the assistant deputy minister of the Canadian Wildlife Service.
We have with us Carol Najm, assistant deputy minister, corporate services and finance branch.
Next, from the Parks Canada Agency, we have Mitch Bloom, vice-president, strategic policy and investment. Mitch, you've been here before. It's nice to see you again.
We also have with us Sylvain Michaud, chief financial officer. Thank you for being here again.
Last, we have Rob Prosper, vice-president, protected areas establishment and conservation. Welcome.
Who would like to start?
Good afternoon. I'm pleased to be here with you today to discuss the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A) for Environment and Climate Change Canada. In terms of these estimates, they include a total of $24.1 million in new spending that requires parliamentary approval. This represents a 2.4% increase over the main estimates of $987.3 million that were tabled in February 2017.
Our estimates include two items: the oceans protection plan and the youth employment strategy.
The government launched a $1.5-billion national oceans protection plan in November 2016. The supplementary estimates (A) is seeking a total of $221.7 million in 2017-18 for this initiative.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is requesting $11.6 million for the oceans protection plan in these estimates and, through future estimates documents, will seek an additional $48.6 million in funding from 2018-19 to 2021-22, for a total of $60.2 million over five years and $8.3 million in ongoing funding as of 2022-23.
The oceans protection plan will help develop a world-leading marine safety system for our country's three coasts that protects marine ecosystems. The oceans protection plan is a horizontal initiative, delivered by four federal departments.
This program will provide a national comprehensive plan that includes a suite of initiatives to modernize the marine safety system; put in place a mechanism to negotiate co-management of marine safety, with roles and responsibilities for indigenous groups; invest in the preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems; and, advance evidence-based decision-making in support of these objectives.
The funding requested by Environment and Climate Change Canada will better position Canada's marine safety system to prevent and respond to marine safety and pollution incidents by undertaking activities related to regional response planning, oversight of incident management, and the collection of baseline data from coastal areas of northern British Columbia. It will also implement a renewed 24-7 weather prediction capacity initiative in support of improved marine safety.
On the youth employment strategy, each year the government invests more than $330 million in the youth employment strategy to help young Canadians gain the skills, abilities, and experience they need to find and maintain good employment.
To further expand employment opportunities for young Canadians, budget 2017 proposed to provide an additional $395.5 million over three years, starting in 2017-18. In supplementary estimates (A), we are seeking in 2017-18 $146.8 million of the funding that was announced in budget 2017. Funding for the fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-20 will be sought through future estimates.
Each year, Environment and Climate Change Canada invests approximately $3.2 million in the youth employment strategy. Environment and Climate Change Canada is requesting an additional $11.3 million in supplementary estimates (A), for a total planned spending of $14.5 million in 2017-18. Through the 2018-19 main estimates, Environment and Climate Canada will seek an additional $11.3 million in funding, for a total planned spending of, again, $14.5 million.
Since 1997, Environment and Climate Change Canada has participated in the youth employment strategy led by Employment and Social Development Canada by delivering the science horizons youth internship program. This program provides eligible employers with a wage subsidy of up to $15,000 per intern to hire recent college and university graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines in environmental fields.
The ongoing funding in the main estimates creates 179 internships. The funding sought through these supplementary estimates is aimed at delivering an additional 785 new internship opportunities for youth in the green economy, for a total of 964 internships in 2017-18.
It helps young people aged 15 to 30 gain the skills, job experience, and abilities to make a successful transition to the workplace.
The youth employment strategy is a horizontal initiative, delivered by 11 federal departments and agencies.
I hope this summary of our initiatives included in the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A) for Environment and Climate Change Canada provides the committee with the insight members had been seeking on the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A) for Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to meet with the committee to discuss the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A) for Parks Canada.
These are Parks Canada's first supplementary estimates to update the 2017-18 main estimates. The agency's submission amounts to increased and voted appropriations of $38.4 million, bringing the agency's total voted budget to close to $1.3 billion. These funds will be spent on the following three items.
The first is $20 million relating to a negotiated settlement with the Regional Municipality of Halifax associated with a long-standing dispute over the amount of payment in lieu of taxes paid by the federal crown for the Halifax Citadel national historic site.
Second, $11 million has been allocated to hire 1,140 additional secondary and post-secondary students to work in Canada's national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites.
The third is $7.4 million to continue the work on developing and expanding Canada's national park and national marine conservation area systems and to contribute to the conservation targets Canada adopted under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
I would like to thank you, Madam Chair, and the committee, for your time today. We're happy to respond to any questions.
Perhaps I'll start, and then my colleagues can join in.
Visitation is a key part of the mandate of parks. Managing that in the broader context of our other priorities, both heritage and the natural environment, is really what we do on a day-to-day basis, so it's fundamental. When you come into a year like this, where right now we're dealing with unprecedented numbers in visitation, because, of course, of free entry to the Canada parks system, that's a really big deal.
At the same time, picking up on the element of your question, we are always working to try to manage that visitation against the capacity we have in the parks, whether it's as simple as the visitor centres or washrooms, or things like our enforcement capacity to deal with human-animal encounters. It has a corollary effect across all aspects of what it is that we do and—
Averaging it over the last decade, it's about a 5% increase year over year, so it's steadily going up. In the last year or so, it's moving up to about 7%. This year, the prediction is for anywhere from 5% to 10%. Again, the smallest things, such as weather, can really affect visitation at a particular point. Our top-out was probably around 24.5 million visitors to our parks system. This year, we're anticipating somewhere in the range of 27 million to 28 million visitors across the system.
Absolutely, and it's really interesting this year because of the giving away of our discovery passes to Canadians, millions and millions of discovery passes. As people would go online and ask for their passes, they would provide information to us about where they're located in the country. A postal code gets you a lot of information.
We have a social research shop within Parks Canada that takes in a lot of that data and does a lot of work. This year, for example, there's a big emphasis on new Canadians, which of course will be picked up next year in free entry as well, and on youth programming in terms of trying to continue to grow the base, which, as I've said, seems to be growing quite naturally, by being able to make sure we can offer experiences to Canadians that might be different from those of others 20 to 30 years ago, who were looking for a different kind of park experience. A lot of time and research go into that.
It's interesting to talk about the spiking numbers. They tend to occur in very specific parts of the country and in particular park areas. Banff National Park is a perfect example. The Bruce Peninsula park is another perfect example. Both are very close to urban centres, and people from Calgary or Toronto get into their cars and go out and visit these parks.
In our top 20 parks where we saw this happening, and it happened in the past, each park had to go through an in-depth planning process to deal not just with the traditional 5% increase but with various scenarios. My colleague spoke about student hiring. We have significant student hiring, more than what we would have had previously. In ordering supplies, everything has been pre-ordered based on much larger numbers of visitors, but again, that tends to be concentrated in a somewhat smaller number of parks. It even includes our enforcement and other staff. From traffic management to everything else, we are ready to handle those crowds in those areas.
In case some of you haven't been in front of us before, what I try to do, rather than interrupt, is wave a yellow card, which means that you have a minute left. A red card means you're out of time, but don't just stop talking. Finish up your thought, and then we'll end that line of questioning.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It's almost like a soccer game in here. I hope I won't get the red card too often.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for taking part in this exercise. As you know, we are trying to gain a better understanding of the situation and make the best possible decisions based on the information you can provide us with.
Your funding requests may not be contradictory, but I would like some clarification from you. It says here that you are seeking funding for 732 internships at a cost of $15,000 each. You're asking for $11 million, but, if I understand correctly, that money will also go towards 2,500 new jobs for young people.
Are we talking about two completely different programs or the same program? If it's the same program, there is not enough money.
The science horizons program is to develop opportunities for young graduates and to encourage recent hires from colleges and universities in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, linked to the green economy. The STEM jobs in sectors of the green economy include jobs that require environmental skills, knowledge, experience, and competencies in order to produce these products and services of environmental benefit. Examples include architects and land use planners who incorporate sustainability into designs, air quality engineers, and conservation officers. The criteria for that program are very specific to environmental fields.
That's the difference between the science horizons program and the overall youth strategy.
Thank you very much for being here today. My comments will probably be directed more to what I don't see in the supplementary estimates than to what is in them.
Perhaps you could interpret the supplementary estimates for me for both Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada. They're directly related to the UNESCO directives.
When I look at the new monies that have been attributed to Parks Canada, I don't see anything in the supplementary estimates specifically related to possibly new dollars that will be needed to deliver on the UNESCO directives, including action on significant government deficiencies and water management across jurisdictions, in other words, B.C. and Alberta in terms of the Peace-Athabasca onto the Slave. They want action on the scale, pace, and industrial development along those two rivers. They have called for a strategic environmental assessment.
I'd be happy to hear from both Environment Canada and Parks Canada on what measures are being taken and on whether these new dollars will be sufficient to also allow for the response demanded by February of next year.
To start, I would indicate that the response to the IUCN mission has a lot of different elements to it that are going to implicate a number of different departments. From an overall perspective, the response to the mission takes a certain process in which you have to go stage by stage.
The first stage is to undertake a state of conservation. That state of conservation gives an idea of what the area is like in terms of its state, as well as what potentially needs to be done in terms of improving it.
As well, we've initiated a strategic environmental assessment, which is something that was called for. We're just now getting into the stage of looking at a costed action plan. It'll take some time, working with our understanding of the circumstance there and working with partners, to determine what will ultimately be an action plan that's going to speak to the recommendations from the IUCN.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Let me first thank our officials from Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada for all their hard work these days.
I know that everyone in your offices is extremely busy because of the various reforms, internal policies, and major projects our government is pursuing. It's very appreciated.
I really want to underscore our appreciation for the hard work being done at Parks Canada and at Environment Canada more broadly writ. As someone who's worked at Environment Canada in the past, I'm thankful, and I want that message to come across loud and clear to your colleagues.
I want to ask about the $7.4 million to continue work on the development and expansion of our national parks, national wildlife areas, and marine conservation areas. Obviously, this committee has indicated its strong desire to see enhancements.
I wonder if you could speak to how the $7.4 million and other prior budgetary allocations will enable greater collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners, because I think that's going to be a major story as we move towards our Aichi targets. It's about how we are actually leveraging the money that we're investing to encourage our FPT partners.
That's actually two questions, so thank you for those.
On the first, in terms of the identified resources for supplementary estimates (A), it breaks down to approximately $3.9 million for planning and negotiation. This is focused on areas of interest in terms of increasing the number of national parks and national marine conservation areas. Specifically, we're working, as I'm sure you know, in Thaidene Nene as one of the key areas on the east side of Great Slave Lake, as well as in the Lancaster Sound national marine conservation area. We're also doing planning on some other areas. We're utilizing those resources to advance the systems plans that we have. Those include the southern Strait of Georgia, the Magdalen Islands, and a potential NMCA, national marine conservation area, in James Bay and Hudson Bay. These are all based on the premise that the partners, i.e., the provinces, are onside, and we'll be working with the provinces to advance those areas.
As for what we're doing in terms of the pathway to Canada target 1 on a broader scale, we are working with other federal departments, provinces, territories, indigenous groups, industry, a whole variety...through a very complex process of engagement with an advisory panel that was initiated last week. As well, we are working with a circle of indigenous experts. This is a group that we are counting on to help provide us advice on how to advance the idea of indigenous protected and conserved areas in Canada. They have had several meetings and are undertaking regional meetings and working with local and regional indigenous groups that either have an interest in indigenous conserved areas or actually have indigenous conserved areas already and are providing advice on those. We hope that's going to be a key part of the overall initiative.
I'll try to answer that.
It's not Parks Canada that actually maintains the government's payment in lieu of taxes program. PSPC does that on behalf of the entire federal portfolio. We have a very big portfolio. We also have very unique properties across the country. This particular one was the Halifax Citadel. Any municipality evaluates, to the best of its perspectives, what it thinks our properties are worth. The federal government then does its assessment. Hopefully they come to agreement, but that does not always happen. In this case, that did not happen over a period of quite a few years, which led to a final decision being made, and an agreement being negotiated between the parties—the federal government and the municipality of Halifax—for this $20-million back payment.
To pick up your question, we haven't yet even negotiated the payments going forward. The liabilities are there. There has been much jurisprudence on this for a long time, and a lot of debate has gone on about how you value especially our unique properties. I guess at the end of the day, more will be seen in the future, because still more has to be done. I think that's the best way to describe it.
Right. In my research, a number of the provinces have cap and trade. Some are looking at cap and trade. Quebec currently has it, as does Ontario. I believe some of the maritime provinces are looking at it.
My concern with the federal carbon tax is its effect when they start to produce a radically different cost difference. I'll give you an example. Today Quebec is at $16 a tonne. If they choose not to raise...and they don't have to, because Quebec has stated that they insist on carbon price sovereignty. They haven't agreed to anything. They're currently at $16 a tonne. If they choose not to raise by $10 a tonne, as required federally each year, by 2020 the federal tax will be $30 a tonne in the provinces that do agree, such as Alberta or British Columbia. Ontario and Quebec will be at $19 a tonne. By 2022 they will be at $23 a tonne, according to the CaliforniaCarbon.info system, and the other provinces will be at $50.
How does the government see balancing this off when there's such a drastic difference in the carbon pricing?
Thank you for your question.
On carbon pricing, as you pointed out, there are a number of different jurisdictions, with different regimes and different price levels. There is a carbon tax in B.C. There's a bit of a hybrid system in Alberta, and cap and trade is being pursued in Ontario and Quebec. The exact purpose of the federal benchmark and the proposed backstop legislation is to bring a level playing field to the situation within Canada. We've had jurisdictions that have indicated maybe they could be willing to increase the price, or pursue pricing if they don't have it now, but they want to compare with their neighbours and they don't want to be too far out of step.
The whole purpose of the approach and the design of the approach of the benchmark and the backstop is to bring a level playing field within the country so that while there are different systems, either cap and trade or different pricing systems, the level of stringency would be consistent across the country and there would be equal treatment. We've committed to do a study to ensure there is comparability between the different systems on the basis of stringency and the impact on the consumer.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
This is probably going to be a little shorter than I thought, because a few people have touched on some of my topics.
Thank you for being here, folks. I appreciate this.
I'll touch first on something that Mr. Aldag touched on, which is the HRM negotiated settlement, the $20 million.
Mitch, I think you indicated there is no annual deal going forward.
For the Parks Canada folks, I assume you're aware of the generational opportunity in Halifax that is Birch Cove Lakes. You did talk about partnerships with indigenous governments and provincial governments. You didn't mention municipal governments. One of the recommendations in our protected spaces report is that Parks Canada and the federal government consider partnerships, including territorial, indigenous, provincial, and municipal governments.
Will touched on the $7.4 million, and you did give us some feedback on the Magdalen Islands. Also, I think you said something about the Strait of Georgia, was it?
Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the people being here today answering the questions as well as they can.
When the environment minister was here last—and I just want to make sure I have this right—we put out an economic analysis, a pan-Canadian report, including a document that goes through our approach to carbon pricing. That document only states that the economic costs of a pan-Canadian framework will be modest and that the impacts of carbon pricing, including for households and businesses, will become available as each province and territory clarifies the precise design of the carbon pricing system.
We have two provinces. It's pretty clear what B.C.'s been doing for years, and Alberta's in. What's the cost?
That would be great. I really appreciate it.
Last, we talked about acquisitions. One thing we ran across is having money available and having a lot of it when you need it. Timing is important. We saw, in the Salt Spring Island area, opportunities to get some pieces of property. You need cash, and you need it now. You don't need bureaucratic years to get it. Our suggestion is that there needs to be money available to get specific pieces of property quickly. I see a very small number in here.
We can think of a property that went up for a million bucks, which would have been critical, but it wouldn't happen under what we have here.
It's interesting. We did our protected areas study, and it was something I think we looked at. In this year's budget there were millions of dollars for new park establishment, but as we advocate for meeting our Aichi targets, it would be useful to have a dollar number that we are at least striving toward so that we could ask Finance and the cabinet to put those kinds of resources toward it.
Mr. Bloom, in your last comment you touched on this idea of moving forward with park establishment money. As you noted with Bill , new flexibility was given to establishment funds. Again, looking at future resources moving forward and what we need to complete the unrepresented areas, if we've started costing out additional lands, with the flexibility that comes through Bill C-18 to add to existing parks, I'm wondering if we have any sort of idea of what that current need could look like to help with the planning of future estimates. Has any thought been given to that, or is it on a more opportunistic basis as opposed to a strategic basis?
I will add to what my colleague said with two quick comments. As you pointed out, there's a negotiation to every park. That's why when we fund these things, the way we get them funded is, in phase one, through planning and negotiation. That will then dictate other elements as to how the park gets established and what associated costs there are. Notwithstanding that it's true we do use formulas so that we are applying a logical, consistent approach, it's albeit very dependent on where you are and the type of park you have. A northern park versus a southern park would be a very good example of that. So yes, that's taken into consideration.
I would also add that in the government's recent budget we received some funds to help support the ongoing maintenance, I would call it, of our assets, which are quite large in the case of Parks Canada. The government also announced that we will be undertaking a medium- and long-term review of our asset base, which does have implications for some of the questions you asked around our parks system. As we continue to expand the parks system, it will be important to make sure that we are doing it in line with the expectations of Canadians in terms of what those parks do. We are taking about the next year and a half, I would say, to think that through as part of what the government committed to in its last budget.
Perhaps we could hear from both groups on the student side, which I'd like to explore a little bit. We've talked a bit about this, but I'm just trying to get a sense of it. During the very first round of questioning we heard about the expanded pressure, with Parks Canada in particular, that may be coming from the increased interest from Canadians to visit this year, the free year during Canada's 150th. I also know that within the federal service there's this balance of students coming in to supplement work versus replacing work. For both Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada I'd be curious to hear the plan.
I think in Parks Canada's submission, you indicate there's 1,140 additional secondary and post-secondary students. How much of that work is envisioned to supplement the work already being done in the agency, and how much of it is actually just to do employee jobs to respond to the increased demand?
As well, I'm interested in hearing about the kind of work the additional students at ECCC will be positioned to play in the coming year.
My questions fall well after John's.
I am informed that we already have a lot of staff vacancies in the national parks, particularly in interpretation. Certainly, that's the case in Alberta. There is going to be a heightened workload because of the minister's inviting everybody and their dog to the park—hopefully no dogs off leash. It's important for visiting the park, and I'm sure John can speak to this, that you have a quality experience, and the staff could have burnout. Plus, if we are going to have only students now, that's more work to supervise. When can we expect that all these vacancies are going to be filled?
My second question is this. I am hearing concerns from people in Banff. Your budget says to expand the national parks. There are people who do not want the Banff town boundaries expanded. I'm wondering if you could speak to that process as well.
That's a good question.
Gosh, we are always trying to hire folks. It's hard to say. Staffing anywhere is a challenge in a country with a fairly active labour market. I think the important part, and my colleague didn't quite touch on this, is that we work very closely with our bargaining agents. We met with them even last week, to find the balance between seasonal employees, student employees, and indeterminate and term employees. Our parks generally don't operate 12 months of the year, so it is quite an interesting equation that we have to do to provide that high level of service when things really push up through the summer season. We do, of course, try to maximize and do our best to have a base that's there to operate the things that we do 12 months of the year.